Tactical brilliance brings Movistar Team leader victory in Port Ainé finale: 2nd in Stage behind De Gendt (LTS) after long break by Erviti, dons leader's jersey after dropping Contador. 8-second lead for Nairo with three days remaining
The fire shown by Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) in yesterday's stage, when, of all the big favourites to win the Volta a Catalunya, he was alone in launching repeated attacks on La Molina, burned even brighter today at Port Ainé, propelling him into the race lead overall at the fifth WorldTour race of the season. Nairo finished the stage 2nd behind Belgium's De Gendt (LTS), with sufficient advantage over his GC rivals to take over the race lead. Donning the white and green jersey was the perfect way to repay his telefónico team-mates for their exemplary work over the first four days of racing.
Under the direction of the two José Luises, Arrieta and Laguía, the team had a day of relative calm thanks to road captain Imanol Erviti's presence in the early breakaway. On the 1st Category Alt d'Enviny, Imanol helped break down the original ten-man group into a trio that also contained Weening (ROO) and De Gendt. A solo plummet down the final descent saw Imanol gain a minute, before the two lighter Low Countrymen passed him on the final climb. Meanwhile, as BMC set the pace, Dayer, Winner and José Herrada piloted Nairo into position, and their leader delivered the definitive blows: the first of them 2km from the finish line, when Contador (TNK) was alone in withstanding his change of pace, and the second inside the final kilometre, to dispatch his unwanted company.
Nairo's 17" advantage on the day over Porte (2nd) and Contador (3rd) gave him an 8" lead in GC, with three days to go before the climax on Montjuïc. Tomorrow, Movistar Team defends Nairo's lead on the road to Valls, where wind and the Category 2 Alt de Lilla constitute the evident hazards.
Nairo Quintana: "Today I felt better than on La Molina. It has been a great day. The team worked hard all stage, keeping me at the front as they have since Monday. We had Erviti in the break. We were hoping that he would lend a hand later on, but by then the pace behind him was very high and I had to go on the attack. I saw my opportunity and took full advantage of it. I had the condition to launch a big attack and make up the gap that opened in the final kilometre yesterday, and some besides. I have been taking care of myself since returning home from San Luis, and I have worked hard in order to be able to start the European season in good shape. This is my reward.
"Final victory? There is still a lot to do. Contador is very close and, in reality, everyone is still within a handful of seconds. There will be lots of riders with an interest in attacking over the coming days, and you can never trust any of your rivals. Tomorrow's is a stage when you can never drop your guard and, even more so, the final circuit race around Barcelona, always a nervous day, is one when you have to keep your eyes peeled. We will try to control the race. We have a great team who will not let me down, and who will give it everything until Sunday. Let's just hope that my rivals don't discover their best form [laughs]."
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport / Luis Ángel Gómez